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Tour suggestions that are more of a cultural experience

For those of you that have done multiple Rick Steves tours, can you give suggestions for tours that you have enjoyed that are more of a cultural experience, as opposed to ones that check the boxes for the big well known sights? Please feel free to comment as to what you enjoyed about them.

Posted by
6948 posts

I’d say Village Italy is the first that comes to mind of the 10 that I’ve done. There are a number of experiential activities on this tour - wine tastings, cooking class, olive oil mill visit and tasting etc.

I’ll add that to me there are always opportunities on Rick’s tours for cultural experiences even if the focus of the tour is one of the big cities. For instance in Best of Paris we had a wine tasting that the guide conducted.

Posted by
547 posts

His Turkey tour is pretty cultural and historical! A great tour!

Posted by
709 posts

I agree with Pam that all RS tours include culture beyond checking off boxes.
The Basque Country tour I took in the spring would probably meet your requirements.

Posted by
3282 posts

Village Italy, Eastern France, and Villages of South England. We're doing South Italy next year, and I understand it fits that category, as well.

Posted by
58 posts

The Best of Bulgaria tour is definitely more of a cultural tour. I recently went on it, and it was an incredible immersion into the local culture, including visits to a local elementary and preschool as well as watching folkdancers at a local cultural center (non-commercialized). Read the reviews and study the itinerary. It's definitely not for everyone, but I found it fascinating.

Posted by
3029 posts

Cultural experiences are a part of all the RS tours I've taken. That's only 5: Istanbul, Village Italy, Scandinavia, Portugal and Spain.

I remember seeing some notations about that and I can't find them online. I think maybe those were in the printed Tour Catalog. I'm about 1500 miles away from mine at the moment, so if someone is closer to theirs perhaps they could check out what the little phrases are that would relate to this question.

Posted by
1365 posts

I'll also add that RS Tours lends to cultural experiences. One of our favorites was Heart of Portugal. We enjoyed Fado performances, Olive Oil Tasting, Family Cork Farm lunch, wine tasting, food tour...

Posted by
2003 posts

Greece was the one for us! Dancing Greek folk dances in Napflio, meeting many wonderful Greek people, enjoying terrific food. Add to that seeing terrific sites. Hard to beat.

Posted by
3282 posts

Lo, I think you're thinking of "cultural connections," and you're right, that's in the print catalogue. Revelssn, if you don't have the catalogue, you can order one from this website. They are free, and great fun to peruse at your leisure.

Posted by
3282 posts

Lo, we need to take another tour together. Debbie was on our Paris and Heart of France tour this year.

Posted by
1694 posts

Hi,revelssn. I will go along with the majority here and agree that while all the tours include "cultural experiences", the ones that immediately come to mind include Greece, Sicily and Villages tours of both Italy and South England. These tours focus mostly on visits to the smaller towns of the countries. I have been on each of these and found that strictly by happenstance, we were on two of them during local and National holiday celebrations. I would also include the now defunct Villages of Turkey and the 7 day Nice tour, both also amazing tours. I wish they would be offered again!

Posted by
3282 posts

Judy B, we're signed up for South Italy next May. I haven't heard what Lo has planned.

Posted by
386 posts

We did Loire Valley to the South of France in May. You'll see the Chateaus in the Loire, Carcassonne and Pont du Gard, but you'll also visit a small village (can't remember it's name), Oradour-sur-Glane, shop at a Market in Sarlat-where you'll get a chance to use your french, and visit a small, family run winery in Provence. I can't say if all RS guides are like this, but every day while on the bus between sites our guide-Virgine More, gave us french lesson, everything from a word or phrase of the day, to explaining french culture and politics. She created a french couple and we followed them through life from getting jobs, getting married having kids, the school system, paying taxes, etc. It was the Wow moment of the trip.

Posted by
3029 posts

Judy B & Jane. I'm scheming on Best of Ireland in 14 days in 2020. That will finish up touching base in all the areas where I have DNA matches. Ireland is the smallest, 6%.

I'd like to pair it with a self-planned stopover in Iceland, especially if I could get my husband to go. His results are 12% Irish and 18% Scandinavian, most of which is probably via his Icelandic great great grandparents.

If not, I might pop over to western France and/or do the 9 day Basque Country of Spain & France. Then there's always England...

Posted by
3029 posts

Oops! I meant to also say that whether noted in the catalog or not as culturally oriented, the itineraries of both the Irish and Basque tours appear to be, especially if you like sheep.

Posted by
3282 posts

Lo, the Basque tour is on our radar, as well. Maybe 2021; we're still ruminating about that.

No interest in going back to Italy? It's our fallback country, although we enjoyed France so much this year we can't wait to go back. And we're always trying to figure out how to squeeze the Netherlands in...

Posted by
47 posts

Greece for sure. We enjoyed a traditional dance while in Nafplio (and some of us were selected to participate - as a non dancer, I was mortified but still had fun). There were also plenty of opportunities to try local produce and to learn to cook authentic dishes.

Posted by
1 posts

Hi-I agree; all have cultural experiences. I loved Sicily-from cuisine to volcanoes, there was something for everyone! And I am just back from the Best of the Adriatic-and it was the best! This can only be described as a cultural tour, although there are starred sites as well. Learning about the peoples and their history and witnessing the post-war reconstruction-and learning from those invested in their futures is an amazing opportunity.

Posted by
1353 posts

Jane and Lo,
I am signed up for the Best of Germany 8/25 - 9/06 in 2020. Was thinking of adding the St. Petersburg Tallinn Helsinki tour that begins on 9/07 but may do it in spring 2021.

There is only one day in between the two tours and:

  1. I really would like to spend 3 days or so in Berlin post-tour. There is so much to do there that the tour will not cover. My friend and traveling companion would like to stay on as well.

  2. I listened to RS interviews on his RS Europe app about Helsinki and Tallinn and would like to arrive a few days early to explore them before the tour begins. I think the spring weather will be pleasant and the flowers may be in bloom, too. 2021 for this tour.

Scandinavia and now Scotland, when they roll out the 14 day itinerary which I hear could be 2021, are both on my list. Oh! I can't forget Switzerland.

Posted by
1353 posts

revelssn,
Where do you think you would like to go? After reading all of our suggestions?

Posted by
44 posts

Village Italy, Sicily, Best of Adriatic, and Portugal have all been on my list and you all have confirmed these as being good picks. The new Andalusia tour also appeals. Will just have to see what works out. Thank you for your suggestions.

Posted by
877 posts

According to the 2020 printed RS Tour Book, a Cultural Connection Tour focuses less on the tourist sights...and more on off-the-beaten-path experiences with a deeply cultural, person-to-person flavor. The following are considered Cultural Connection Tours:

  1. Best of Sicily
  2. Best of Tuscany
  3. Best of South Italy
  4. Village Italy
  5. Best of Eastern France
  6. Basque Country
  7. Best of Andalucia
  8. Heart of Portugal
  9. Villages of South England
  10. Heart of Belgium & Holland
  11. Best of Switzerland
  12. Best of Bulgaria
  13. Best of Turkey

We have been on three of the tours on this list: Sicily, South England and Village Italy. The Cultural Connection type tours probably attract more experienced travelers, although that may be more a factor related to the destinations. Also, the tour guides on any RS tour vary in the amount of emphasis placed on cultural education and experiences.

Posted by
1694 posts

Currently on Portugal tour. Two day’s in and definitely meeting your criteria already! I’m expecting more of the same- it’s terrific!

Posted by
2104 posts

revelssn, I have been on 11 RS tours, including most of those mentioned here so far. I also especially enjoy the interactive cultural experiences more than the major sites, although the major sites are wonderful too, that’s why they are so famous, sought out, and often crowded. I will certainly endorse Plumeria’s recommendation of the Best of Bulgaria Tour. I had little idea what to expect, but it was wonderful, with lots of interpersonal interaction with everyday Bulgarian people, some beautiful but not world-known sites and towns, and a terrific Bulgarian guide, Stefan, who has been leading each of the tours. And, there are few tourists in Bulgaria, very different from many other countries. I would also highlight the Best of Portugal and Best of Sicily Tours, and while I have not taken it, I’ve heard wonderful things about Village Italy. On most tours, you can also create your own cultural experiences by spending your free time in neighborhoods and villages, more than additional museums or major churches.